Married to the Slob

Dropped by their label, things were looking bleak for those pioneers of the sample-rock hoedown, Pop Will Eat Itself. But this year they made their Top Ten debut and returned willingly to indie land to reclaim their kingdom...

Graham Crabb is in complete control. He pauses, slides a clammy hand through his lurid green hair and surveys the field: it's all clear. Then he starts to dribble, forcing his way past anyone in his path.


The opposition can't keep up, he ploughs through, he takes aim, he shoots.... GOAL!


A dull, drizzly afternoon in Manchester, and several spectators have gathered to see a gang of obscene-looking males 'bonding' for charity. On the pitch, the Poppies have a 2-0 advantage over Ned's Atomic Dustbin in the Stourbridge Five- A-Side Derby. On the terraces, both the entourage and substitutes are drinking, swearing, insulting and intimidating the players - all in


the name of sport. It's a gruesome spectacle which does nothing to broaden the Poppies' reputation as unruly, crude, scruffy, beery lads with personalities as shallow as the puddles we're standing in.


Nevertheless, we have come in search of sensitivity. We've come looking for Pop Will Eat Itself's more feminine qualities. We've come here to find out what they're really like, for an insight into the close, personal relationship of Graham Crabb and Clint Mansell We've...come to the wrong place.


POP WILL Eat Itself are a remarkable band. A group whose complexities are, largely, overshadowed by their apparently simple (and sometimes simple-minded) approach to pop music. Their achievements have been overlooked purely because they lack the 'necessary' glamour. Before Anthrax and Public Enemy toured together, Pop Will Eat Itself went on the road with Run DMC in a noble but doomed attempt to break down barriers. Before Carter, Jesus Jones and EMF there was Pop Will Eat Itself, fusing guitar rock with house and rap (and, occasionally, swingbeat, jazz, indie and acid) to create a genuinely inspiring crossover.


But 1993 has been an odd year for Pop Will Eat Itself, dropped by RCA, then picked up by a new independent label, Infectious. They had their first Top Ten hit - the posthumous RCA release of "Get The Girl, Kill The Baddies'- appeared on Top Of The Pops, spent a shortvacation in Sharon Tate's infamous old house with Trent Reznor, and signed to Reznor'sNothing label in the States.


A lesser group might have crumbled at the daunting prospect of returning to an unproven indie label, particularly as most of them have reached the 'settling down' age of 30. But, as Clint indicates, the only thing that would finish them would be if the fun stopped. At times it has stopped, of course - they've rowed and fought but, somehow, they've always made up. Clint and Graham have a unique relationship, one which they don't even appear to understand themselves. Somewhere between Peters and Lee, Bonnie and Clyde and Abbott and Costello, you'll find Crabb and Mansell.


"OOOH, I give up," says a little old lady, as she catches sight of the vaguely respectable looking Clint and Graham, now changed out of their sweaty and mud- spattered football kit.


"Tch, I really do, I give up."


Both Clint, dressed in a smart second-hand suit with his violent red hair neatly tied back, and


Graham, In clean, casual jacket and trousers, smile at her and carry on walking back to the hotel. Clint explains that begets more abuse from members of the public who don't recognise him than he does as the obnoxious Clint Poppie. Sometime, it does get to him.


See, very few people take the time to seek out the gentler side of Stourbridge's loudest 'freaks'… and it's not hard to see why. Clint has been described as a walking penis - by Graham. And Clint himself admits to being a huge pain in the arse, sometimes impossible to be with.


"Like the time Graham poured a pint of lager over a journalist's head because he didn't give their album a good review, and then the time that the two of them trashed a hotel bar in Reading during a fight - with each other.


So to sit each of them down separately, to discuss their relationship, talk about their hidden sides and maybe even come to a few conclusions - just might be a fruitless exercise. After all, the lyrics on their new single, "RSVP", merely seem to reinforce their crude image 'Shaking like a shitting dogl He couldn't work it out'.


"Oh, here we go" laughs Graham, a little uncomfortable with the one-on-one intimacy. "Dissecting the lyrics. What do you think it's about?"


Well, it's not about returning a party invitation, is it? Do you hide behind your lyrics? Are they full of hidden meanings?


"I suppose I do put things into lyrics that I wouldn't dream of saying to people," mumbles Graham running his index finger around the rim of his glass of mineral water. But you put things in because you want to get things out, but at the same time you don't want people to


understand them. There were initial words for that song and then they changed- i justsaid i didn't want people to understand them."


"Half way through writing that song my mum died and I suppose I was fuelled by that. It's a weird thing, someone that close dying. She had a heart-attack, she was only 54."


He pauses.


"And I hate it when people try not to mention it, like they're suddenly going to remind you when intact it's on your mind all the time. And most of the time all you want to do is talk about it"


GRAHAM IS the most talented member of the band; adventurous, reserved and amicable, but fiery when provoked. Clint is the show-off, the anything goes, what-you-see-is-what-you-get exhibitionist, impossible to live with but polite, honest and humble in spite of everything.


If Graham was a hedonist, or if Clint was loath to admit he saw it as "Graham's band", the Poppies would surely never have made it this far.


"I'm not very analytical," admits Graham. "I must be pretty shallow really because I never question relationships. Then again, I could be suffering from self-delusion. It's been said before that I don't give much away. Is 'it true? Yeah, definitely, ever since I was young. "I don't trust anyone, it's just one of those things, it's how you were brought up. I only ever spoke to my sister and now it's my girlfriend, but it's only ever been one person. Our family was very close-knit - which is where I get my anti-social tendencies from."


And where did you get your quick temper from?


"My dad. he's a Trade Unionist and very rebellious by nature, ready to die for a cause at any moment. If anyone crosses him, he goes completely f-ing crazy."


And what about Graham's relationship with Clint? He says that, minutes after their punch-up at Reading, they were in his room hugging each other with "more than a few tears" in their eyes. He also says that if he did a Mr & Mrs quiz with Clint, he'd get all the answers right. Graham knows he's very awkward to work with but, then again, "so is Clint".


"Clint acts like an arsehole some of the time, but to his credit, he's the first to admit it," says Graham.


"One of the first things I liked about him was the way he created tension wherever he went, but you don't want that round you all the time and recently he's realised that."


Do you hate any of Clint's songs?


"Yeah, 'Karmadrome'. I didn't want it on the album, and then when it was picked as a single it was even worse. But there are songs I've written that I can't listen to any more, such as Bullet Proof."


CLINT MANSELL, according to Graham, is "a thinker who wouldn't admit it", although, apparently, he's started to come to terms with his more tender side. It's obviously hard for him to talk about it. After all, doesn't he have his wild and untamed star charisma to maintain?


"I don't think I'm really wild and untamed," says Clint, brushing back his mane of unmanageable hair and stroking the goatee he's shaped into points with Copydex. I'm probably still a bit childish, if anything. I've never really had to grow up, and people allow meto get away with things... which is great from an artistic view, but it just makes me impossible to live with."


And how does he see Graham? Well, Clint reckons, "Gray" would be much happier if he never had to do another tour, interview or picture session in his life. Clint on the other hand - who dresses in a leather codpiece and a fishnet bodystocking for their new Swells directed video - loves the attention.


A motormouth by trade (and doesn't he know it), Clint is the kind of bloke who hides a multitude of emotions behind an easy grin and a witticism. When he admits to his and Graham's more tender moments, he obscures the sentiment by saying they're always alcohol-induced. What's blatantly obvious, though, is their respect and loyalty, which transcends all those fights, all that f-ing about, all those laddish don't-give-a- damn larks. After being slated, praised, slated and praised again and again, and still as perversely successful as ever, that speaks volumes.

Have you ever hated any of Graham's songs?

"No," he replies. Gray'll probably say differently about my songs, maybe he will, maybe he won't, I dunno."

He did.